This solar cycle, the sun's activity is more powerful and surprising than predicted

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We’re currently a few years into the 25th studied solar cycle. An 11-year period of sun activity, this solar cycle is more active than previously expected.

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Otherwise known as the northern or southern lights, an aurora is light emitted by upper atmospheric particles as they interact with energized ones from the magnetosphere.

The Starlink destruction event In February 2022, SpaceX launched 49 Starlink internet satellites into a low-Earth orbit (LEO). This was the 36th Starlink launch that SpaceX had carried out, and one that they anticipated to go off without a hitch, just like the 35 before. Starlink, however, was initially launched into an altitude of 210 kilometres. That’s much closer to Earth, with an exponentially higher air density. Thirty-eight out of those 49 initial launch satellites were subsequently lost due to atmospheric drag from the dense atmosphere, pulling them back to Earth.

We’re currently four years into solar cycle 25, but this one has already proven surprising. The maximum activity of the 25th cycle was predicted to occur in 2025, but solar activity has already exceeded that. This means we’ve been seeing more geomagnetic storms, more auroral displays (and at lower latitudes than usual) and, potentially, more hazardous conditions for LEO satellites.

Geomagnetic storms that affect ionospheric composition can cause radio blackouts, such as a disruption in North America on Aug. 7. Even minor storms can cause the degradation of radio signals used in military and maritime systems, aviation communication or ham radio.

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